Yankees officials never said it out loud because it is not the kind of sentiment that gets publicized.
Instead, the Yankees offered many explanations for why they never went all-out to retain Robinson Cano as a free agent following 2013 — such as fear of doing a contract as long as 10 years, concern Cano already had passed 30, worry that his thick body would not age well.
But one reason — the one not broadcast — was that Melky Cabrera and Alex Rodriguez already had been suspended for their association with illegal performance-enhancing drugs. And those were Cano’s best friends on the Yankees. And while no one can be found guilty by association, the Yanks were apprehensive enough about the tightness of that group to wonder if Cano would ever be the next domino to fall.
He now is.
It was announced Tuesday that Cano was suspended 80 games for testing positive for Furosemide, which is sold as Lasix. It is a diuretic, and in his statement Cano said it was given to him by a licensed doctor in his native Dominican Republic for “a medical ailment” that he does not specify. Cano added that, “I have never tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance.”
But understand the process under the Joint Drug Program between MLB and the union: Cano was tested in the Dominican during the offseason. When a positive is shown for a banned diuretic/masking agent such as Furosemide, the case goes to the Independent Program Administrator Thomas Martin. His investigation determined Cano was using the diuretic to mask PED use. Then MLB investigated and found the same.
Thus, while the substance detected was not a PED, the finding and the subsequent 80-game suspension was as if it had been.
Cano will, therefore, lose roughly $12 million in pay this season and a good chunk of his reputation. Cano is among the greatest second basemen in history, and this will cripple his Hall of Fame chances. All his offense and durability will now come under question — what was real and what was artificially manufactured?
Cano’s suspension began Tuesday. He was to miss time anyway with a fracture in his right hand, but since the suspension was determined before the injury occurred Sunday, Cano is being allowed to concurrently be on the DL and suspended.
Initially, Cano filed a grievance that was supposed to be heard Tuesday in Seattle. On Friday, the union asked MLB to lessen the penalty. On Saturday, MLB refused. Not long after, Cano and the union rescinded the grievance. Ultimately, Cano never disputed taking the substance or that the substance is banned, only why it was in his body, and neither the Independent Program Administrator nor MLB believed his story. Thus, the suspension came down Tuesday — came down like a thud on the Mariners, in particular.
The Yanks were Cano’s first long-term choice, but when they refused to go beyond seven years in any offer — and even that proposal felt designed to look like effort but fall short — the lefty swinger signed a 10-year, $240 million pact with the Mariners. Seattle was hoping Cano would be the centerpiece to land a long-missing playoff spot.
Cano has played well with the Mariners. But Seattle still has gone the longest in North American team sports without reaching a postseason (since 2001). And even if they make it now, the Mariners, by rules of the suspension, would not have Cano in the playoffs. And their chances of getting there obviously dim without Cano, who hit third in each of the Mariners’ first 39 games.
Cano is still owed five years at $120 million after this season, and questions will arise how good he will continue to be, turning 36 in October and with this suspension now on his record. Another Mariner, Nelson Cruz, endured a PED suspension and came back better than before and rebuilt a good deal of his reputation.
Cano is well liked in the game. But this will not be an easy road. Not at his age and not if he actually was masking a PED and feels he must stop using now.
He joins great players such as A-Rod, Rafael Palmeiro and Manny Ramirez who have incurred suspensions tied to the Joint Drug Agreement, and whose Hall of Fame chances diminished. Rodriguez — who seems to get a new TV project per day — has regained a lot of public standing despite his nefarious past.
Cano now begins a period of suspension and attempts at regeneration. He does it as a Mariner, in part, because the Yankees feared this day might be coming.
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